As the school year approaches, parents are deciding whether to send their children back to school or choose online, at-home learning this fall. We understand this isn’t an easy decision to make, and we know how important it is to make the best choice for your child’s well-being. That’s why we’ve put together five things to consider when deciding between in-person vs. online learning for your children this school year.
1. Children Are Less Likely to Develop COVID-19 Symptoms
“This seems to be a very rare disease in children, and they don’t seem to spread it very well,” explains Dr. Neal Spears, pediatrician at St. Joseph and Texas A&M Health Network.
Increasing evidence suggests that children and adolescents are less likely to develop symptoms and have a lower risk of experiencing severe COVID-19 cases compared to adults. This means that children have a decreased chance of spreading the disease to other people.
2. Schools Will Have Measures in Place for Reducing Infection Rates
Schools will develop a strict plan for reducing infection rates before the start of classes in the fall. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), these precautions will likely include physical distancing measures, such as placing desks 6 feet apart, screening for COVID-19 symptoms, and requiring face coverings when possible.
Every school’s mitigation measures are designed to help reduce infection rates without sacrificing quality of instruction. However, it’s important to note they will not entirely eliminate the risk of infection.
3. Mitigation Measures Will Vary Across Grade Levels
Dr. Spears understands it will be nearly impossible to implement strict physical distancing measures and mask-wearing among children at the pre-k and younger levels. Regarding this group and precautions, he states, “You’re not going to be able to keep physical distancing. They’re not going to keep masks on properly. So really it’s about hand hygiene and not coming to school sick.”
The AAP recommends that schools implement cohort classes to reduce interactions between children and adults within the school, utilize outdoor spaces when possible, encourage parents to keep children at home when sick, and limit unnecessary visitors into the building for classes with younger children.
4. Schools May Change Their Plans During the School Year
Although schools may start the year with in-person classes, this could change during the school year. This will largely depend on transmission rates in the school and the community. Schools are likely to encounter at least a few positive cases this fall, but that alone doesn’t necessarily warrant shutting them down. If schools have positive cases, local governments should form an appropriate response.
5. Children With Underlying Medical Conditions May Be at Risk
If a child has pre-existing medical conditions that could put them at risk of COVID-19 complications, or that could make in-person learning difficult, it’s worth considering if that child would be better suited for online learning this fall. You know your child better than anyone and how they may respond to in-person or online learning, so it’s best to consider both options.
We know that some parents may not have a choice between online and in-person learning, and your needs may change before the start of the school year. You can rest assured that your school district understands this too.
“Give us what you think is your best guess right now. We know that your family situation may change and that you may need to work with us to change that, and we will,” advises Dr. Christie Whitbeck, Bryan ISD Superintendent.
If you’d like to discuss the pros and cons of in-person and online learning for your child, you can schedule a televisit with your CHI St Joseph and Texas A&M Health Network family medicine physician or pediatrician. They can assist you in making an informed decision for your family.
American Academy of Pediatrics | COVID-19 Planning Considerations: Guidance for School Re-entry
KBTX-TV | Local pediatrician: Return to in-person learning is the right move
KBTX-TV | What parents should know as a new, unusual school year approaches